Sharing Food and Memories with Friends and Family

April 3, 2017
Irene Saiger


Chana Chat (South Asian Garbanzo bean salad)

IMG_9366Yesterday, just about a week before Pesach (Passover), my kitchen and dining room table were covered in flour.  Mounds of dough were portioned out around the edge of the table, potatoes were boiling in the kitchen, and salad ingredients were being chopped on every available surface.

My daughter-in-law, Elizabeth, is involved in an organization called New Ground, whose mission is to encourage dialogue between Jews and Muslims. Months ago I had suggested that she organize something around food, and so here we were, sixteen people crowded around the table, eight Jews and eight Muslims, representing two generations.  I demonstrated how to make my Challah and Mahmooda taught us how to make Chana Chat, a salad that is commonly served in both Pakistan and India.  (which if you eat kitniyot during Pesach is a light and delicious salad!!)

What did we have in common? Plenty!  One woman shared how she cared for her aging in-laws because that’s the family’s responsibility, and expressed hope that her own children and grandchildren will do the same for her and her husband one day.  A young woman named Farzana told me how her family gets together every Friday night after prayers for a late dinner.  She said that everyone knows it’s family night and instead of seeing friends, they spend time together as a family, sitting and eating, talking, and as she put it, marinating.  Mahrukh, a woman from Bombay explained that she was contentedly living in Italy when she and her family decided to move to Los Angeles. Her boys only spoke Italian, very little Urdu, and no English and she worried how they would adjust to life in America. All of these stories could have been stories from my own family.  Of the sixteen participants at least 14 were immigrants, children of immigrants, or grandchildren of immigrants.  Sound familiar?

Yes it was a little crazy to do this a week before Passover but it filled me with so much hope for the future, more than I’ve had in months.  And what better way to start the Chag but to be reminded how much we gain from opening our hearts, our doors, and our kitchens to others.  Let’s tear down those walls, one dish at a time.

Chana Chat

1 cup garbanzo beans.  Prepared from dry beans is best but you may substitute canned beans.

1 tbsp sweet tamarind sauce or pomegranate molasses, thinned out slightly with some water  ( we found tamarind sauce in Persian market and it was kosher for Passover!)

1 potato, peeled, diced into 1/2 ” pieces, boiled until soft, and drained

1 small red onion, diced

1 tomato, small to medium size, diced

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tsp red chili powder

1 tsp freshly ground cumin powder

1 tsp red chili flakes (if you want extra heat)

2-3 green chilies, chopped

1⁄4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1 lemon cut in quarters

Mix together all the ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust flavors according to your preference. You can serve this warm or at room temperature.

Note:  One woman said she sautes her onions and tomatoes for a few minutes, she just prefers it that way.  Seasoning seemed to depend on how much heat you like.  There was lots of tasting and shaking, adding as they went.  One woman said you can add mint if you like.

Enjoy and Chag Sameach,


15 thoughts on “Chana Chat (South Asian Garbanzo bean salad)

  1. Irene, Nancy shared this post with me and I loved it so much (and for so many reasons) I signed up for your blog! Thank you!

  2. What a fantastic story and experience. I love especially the idea of tearing down walls one dish at a time. There’s nothing like seeing our common humanity in our shared values of food and tradition. Kol Ha Kavod to you and Elizabeth.

  3. 🙂 thanks! Hag sameach!!


  4. You really captured the experience in what I consider a profound way. I know because I was one of the participants and I loved the whole get-together. The food turned out great and our Muslim sisters were so happy to go home with their “challot.”

  5. Beautifully done, Irene! Love, Norm

    Sent from my iPhone Norm Saiger 310-480-4336


  6. Absolutely beautiful, Irene. I’m so proud of you!

  7. What a wonderful idea, Irene and Elizabeth!

  8. What a wonderful story right before Pesach. The recipe is yummy. Thanks for sharing. Chag Sameah

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